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Pocket Drummer "Pocket Drummer" (Seaford, Sussex)

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Black Sails, Season 3
Black Sails, Season 3
Dvd
Price: £15.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Piratey, addictive, eye candy. Daft as a deck-hand, and not for land-lubbers...., 12 April 2016
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Great fun! A 'boys own' style swashbuckling high seas adventure which is only occasionally let down by some creaky performances. I've enjoyed this every bit as much as the first two seasons, but wow... i didn't think Hannah New's acting could get any stiffer. It does, and boy does she deliver some stinkers! Its not entirely her fault that she appears to be concentrating on getting her lines out throughout. Her expressionless dialogue is so clunky at times it feels like it was written by an illiterate buccaneer, and the conversations between New and Jessica Parker Kennedy (complete with her dodgy 'foreign' accent) seem to drag on forever. Still, they do seem to feel their roles are serious enough to strip off for gratuitous sex scenes, so I guess it's not all bad.

To be fair, these flaws are not only applicable to New's role and acting abilities. Zach McGowan's try-hard accent is equally laughable most of the time (possibly the fault of the overdub), and there are numerous issues with undercooked plot 'coincidences' that only a twelve year old boy could overlook. But quibbles aside, this is addictive, explosive, action packed and extremely easy-on-the-eye.. a show that brings us some believable (albeit comic book) heroes and villains, some great locations, blue skies and sand....

It might be seen by many as a guilty pleasure, but it is endearing binge-watch escapism without a 'Yo, ho, ho' to be heard, or a Keith Richards impersonation in sight.


Agent Cooper
Agent Cooper
Offered by Springwood Media
Price: £4.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Great songs, great voice, dynamic sound... what's not to like?, 25 Nov. 2015
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This review is from: Agent Cooper (Audio CD)
Well, I'm also not sure why this album has attracted negativity from some of the other reviewers on here? Ok, so the production has seriously upped its game in terms of the dynamic range of the music and the measured input (reverbs, delays, compression, digital instrumentation). In fact compared to the earlier Russian Red songs and albums this is the most overtly 'pop' in terms of the way that the songs are dressed, but this is by no means a bad thing. Every sound, every note, every backing vocal and harmony sounds exactly like it has been built into the structure of a song for a reason. And on that level alone I find it a hugely enjoyable listening experience. This is a driving album... a set of songs for road trips into the night. It makes sense as a complete set of songs, and it takes the listener on a journey as the album progresses.

Lourdes Hernández has been working her voice in the style that she sings for a number of years, and in the musical environment of sultry reverb drenched laid back vocals coming from the likes of Lana Del Ray and Beach House, I find it refreshing that she doesn't hold back in any way. Sure, she has a mildly stylised and affected style to her vocals - part little girl lost, part pop diva. But her delivery is beautiful, her accent giving her 'Spanglish' lyrics a warmth in their phrasing..... (ok, she sings in English, but the lyrics are slightly quirky in terms of their use of the language, but that makes them all the more endearing).

"You're running up the stairs, you said you're gonna catch that train, 'my legs won't turn me down' you pray in small voice, 'not this time'..."

The songs carry multiple influences, and I believe that the input from members of the UK band Belle & Sebastian probably influenced this recording in a big way. Their recent albums have also become more polished and dynamic, and have certainly pushed away from their original DIY sound. Agent Cooper brings to mind 90s songwriters such as Tanya Donnelly or Juliana Hatfield (the former with her band Belly is actually a fairly close comparison), but it is also very much roots itself in the now. I certainly hope that with their next album Russian Red see an increase in popularity with a UK audience (they seem to have small pockets of fans around the globe). They also seem to be largely ignored by the UK music press, and I think that is rather unfair considering the quality of this album alongside some of the throw-away records and bands that they review.


Matter
Matter

5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect lyrical folk-pop with a side-order of punk., 23 Jun. 2015
This review is from: Matter (Audio CD)
This debut album from criminally underrated Lismore, NSW band The Simpletons, was first released on their home-grown label Candle Records early in 1995. After winning a country-wide band competition, and recruiting a young Darren Hanlon on lead guitar and accordion, the band set out to tour Australia, flogging their homemade 'Smother' and 'Nod' ep's en-route to eager punters from Brisbane to Adelaide. With an inherent knack for rounding off a set of memorable melodies with quirky wordplay, Cheyne (Shane) Gelagin and co painted wisdom-filled tales of hope, boredom and friendship set against the dusty backdrop of small-town Australia. Sessions for a debut full length album were booked, and some of the well-gigged songs were finally committed to tape at studios in Sydney.

'Matter', the result of that session stands the test of time very well. Now 20 years later, it still feels as fresh as it did on first listen, and where perhaps the production values (especially the drums) on the earlier ep releases permanently staple them to the 16-track demo sound of the early nineties, this set of songs feels timeless and warm with a full rich sound.

'Nice' tells a tale of ping-pong emotions. 'Nice to be home, but you can't make love to a town....' sings Gelagin, his delivery lazy yet somehow still precise over Hanlon's buoyant guitar riff. 'Nice to be alone, nice to be in a crowd...' The song perfectly captures the feeling of return from travels to a familiar setting, a familiar place, but with the romance and magnetic pull of a foreign place still running through your veins. 'I woke up hours ago, but i've yet to open my eyes...' tops the distorted crunch of the chorus.

The album explores the concept of positives and negatives, firing darkness and light, acoustic and electric at the listener as the songs travel through gentle folk ballads, country pop, alternative rock and full-blown punk moments. The distorted guitars swoop and soar, then they pull back to bare vocals and acoustic guitar when you least expect it. 'Smoke-o is the time I like best...'; a clever break from the pounding drums and Brad Cheers' walking bass line on 'Occupation'. These songs are passionate, well grounded melodies, but Gelagin's head is somewhere up in the clouds yearning for something more than a lifetime spent clocking in and out of a never ending factory shift.

We get a sideways look at the self-absorbed American dream on 'Quarterback Sack'. 'Chuckie and Holly eating wieners and coffee, discussing the problems of the world. But their world does not exist beyond the county line... does not exist outside of prime-time.' The melodic interplay on this track is pushed to the fore as Hanlon's mandolin lines weaves in and out of the guitars. Steve Meldrum's up-tempo drumming is key in keeping the album an addictive proposition for start-to-finish listening. Few albums released today qualify for this treatment.

When it comes to ploughing unusual subject matter, a stand-out is the acoustic track 'Postcard' (later covered by label mates The Lucksmiths), written by Gelagin after learning that his grandfather has passed away on a foreign holiday. 'So fickle is the funny side, it may seem lower than the lowest tide, you can only touch the hotplate for so long. It's better to become candle wax than to burn on.' The track builds to explain his sad demise on a small volcanic island, overlooking a bay, and after a plea to 'mourn with me…' we are left with the beautifully witty closing lines; 'besides, he left us on good golfing form... three days ago, he hit five pars. Take care now, love Grandma.'

'Friends' is a knowingly cool celebration of variety, again working the theme of opposites. 'You like poetry, I like punk, you throw away stuff and I hoard junk.' We even get a nod to The Smiths with 'Some girls look a bit like their brothers. Some birds have bigger beaks than others.' While some of this wordplay might seem randomly throw-away on first listen, Gelagin's lyrics are actually incredibly well crafted, and filled with tiny references to literature, popular culture, cricket scores, cult films and all of the innocuous little things that become trapped in the mind of a gifted storyteller.

It is hard to pigeon-hole an album like this. It moves so knowingly between genres, yet retains its own identity throughout. While it is possible to pin names such as REM, Billy Bragg, Paul Kelly, and even Pavement to the genres that they weave in and out of, nobody else sounded quite like The Simpletons. Australiana meets Americana, Country meets punk, Folk meets …..

A second album, 'Tandem' followed in 1996 with a similar mix of quiet and loud, acoustic and electric, but in the increasingly grunge-punk orientated Australian music scene of the late nineties, the new songs and live sets became a lot heavier. The final album 'Popcore' in 1998 (now very hard to find), saw Gelagin as the only original band member (bar Hanlon's guitar work on one track), and he took a far more experimental approach to the songwriting, leaning on his US alt-rock influences and stepping on the overdrive pedal a lot more frequently. His vocals seem almost detached, like they are recorded from a distance, and some of the songs include lead vocals from (or are penned by) other band members. As a result the album doesn't gel in the same way as the earlier output - perhaps this was a way to keep all of them on the team. The song writing quality remained strong, but the subject matter became introverted, no longer looking at the world sideways. Gelagin took to writing about being in a band, being on the road, selling cds and struggling to make it as a musician. One or two songs also pay reference to involvement in the drug scene that would eventually end his life in 2003.

'Matter' is a classic 'lost album' from a band that truly deserved to go on to bigger and better things. Like many other Antipodean acts, breaking out of their own country in those pre-internet days was nigh on impossible, and although they somehow managed to get a copy of 'Matter' into the hands of the afomentioned Mr Bragg (who said he was a fan), and blagged support slots with the likes of They Might Be Giants, Juliana Hatfield, and even Waylon Jennings (!) they never toured or released records outside of Australia. It is an album that probably sold fewer than 5,000 copies when it was released, yet so many people seem to have memories of The Simpletons, arguably the hardest working Australian band of the nineties, playing in a local pub, RSL or university bar, or even sleeping on the floor in their student house.

The Simpletons back catalogue on Candle Records, including 'Matter' can be found on I-Tunes and Spotify, and also a number of the albums and eps are available (along with other ex-Candle Records acts) through the PVH Records online store (http://pvhrecords.com/candle-albums/).

For those who haven't bumped into him on the road, Darren Hanlon went on to a successful career as a solo artist, recording and touring all over the world. He will more than likely be performing somewhere in the northern or souther hemisphere, at a town near you, soon. If you already know him, but don't know of his musical history, buy 'Matter'… you will not regret it!


A Flourish and A Spoil
A Flourish and A Spoil
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A flourish and a blur of similar sounding tracks..., 8 April 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: A Flourish and A Spoil (Audio CD)
I ordered this album after hearing the song 'Peaches' on BBC 6Music. While I have enjoyed listening to the album a few times through, I still feel that the rest of the songs don't quite live up to the instant attention-grabbing vibe of that one track…. it is most certainly an ear worm!

Sound-wise the album is a tight and richly textured affair, changing gears swiftly between scratchy acoustic tracks and full-tilt roots rock. Yet sadly after five or six tracks I started to wonder if I was hearing a melody I had already heard previously. The Districts songs are often similar in both dynamic and arrangement, and to my ears they blur together into a 'sound' rather than a distinct set of songs. That said, I am always happy to listen to a new album that is not drowned in auto-tuned vocals and the tacky production flourishes that so many modern rock albums employ in attempt to sound contemporary.

The Districts are less brash than most American rock acts, and although there are certainly echoes of the Strokes or The Killers in their use of vocals mirrored with a lead synth melody, they seem to have more in common with the Canadian music scene that spawned Jim Bryson and The Occasionals (the similarities are uncanny, and i'll guess these guys haven't even heard that album!). The over-driven vocals are delivered in a lazy southern drawl that sounds both honest and unaffected. The lyrics are highly poetic in places, but I'm not sure that the subject matter travels far beyond tales of alienation, yearning and failed relationships. But that is not a negative comment against a young band pushing a mature sound. This band do what they are good at and they do it very well. It's not highly original, it's not ground-breaking or scene-stealing, but right now The Districts sound ONLY like The Districts and that can't be a bad position to be in. Especially so with a cracking song like 'Peaches' getting them global airplay.

They'll probably be huge this time next year.


Sennheiser HD201 Closed Dynamic Stereo headphones
Sennheiser HD201 Closed Dynamic Stereo headphones
Price: £16.99

49 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best buy headphones in the £10-40 price range, 21 July 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Seriously, if you are thinking about spending £40 on a pair of headphones because you think you'll get better quality than these... well don't bother. I have owned loads of different pairs of 'general use' budget over-ear headphones in the last 10 years, from pretty much all of the main brands, and these are better than all of them by a long way. I use them for general recording and studio work (although I do have an expensive set for mixing), watching movies on the train, and listening to music on the move. The quality of audio is pretty much the same across all Sennheiser headphones whether you buy high end or low end... it is always crisp, clear and well balanced. I generally use EQ with these phones as although there is a decent amount of bass, the overall quality can be enhanced with a little bit of work.

Overall, I thoroughly recommend these for anyone on a budget, for general music use, movies or gaming. You'll need to wear them in a bit as they do feel tight at first, but only a few days and they'll be snug and comfortable.


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